Episode 97: Rachel Howard’s Big ‘Risk’

Rachel Howard.
Rachel Howard.

Rachel Howard was a Clovis High School flag-team member when an essay contest changed her life, putting her on a path whose latest milepost is the publication of her first novel, The Risk of Us, which will be available everywhere April 9. This week, Rachel joins The GrottoPod to talk about the inspiration for her new book, her unlikely path into the arts, how she’s helped create a writing community in the Sierra foothills and why you’re likely to hear torch songs at her book-launch party.

“I still feel that devastation is always just around the corner for writers.”

Episode 95: Cheryl A. Ossola On Writing Motherhood

Cheryl A. Ossola
Cheryl A. Ossola

Writer Cheryl A. Ossola waited a long time to realize her dream. It finally came true in 2018, when the one-time theater electrician, photographer, neonatal nurse and dance-magazine editor landed in Italy to put the finishing touches on her first novel, The Wild Impossibility, out May 9. This week, the GrottoPod is lucky enough to corral Ossola during a visit to the U.S. to discuss how a lifetime of experience can produce a lush, heart-breaking novel that author Katie Crouch calls “a breathtaking novel about what it means to be a mother.”

“I would just like somebody to say this book mattered.”

Episode 93: Thaisa Frank On Writing, Zen and Therapy

Thaisa Frank, author of the novel Heidegger’s Glasses, four books of short stories and Finding Your Writer’s Voice, joins the GrottoPod this week for a delightful trip through the life of a “writer’s writer,” former therapist, Zen practitioner, women’s rights activist and teacher of writing (who doesn’t believe writing can be taught). Join Thaisa, BQ and Larry for a topsy-turvy journey that eventually lands at the Grotto and in the GrottoPod, where the winner of two PEN awards completely charms your hosts. This is a can’t-miss episode. After this, we’re taking a holiday break — we’ll be back Jan.→ READ MORE

Episode 90: Jaya Padmanabhan On Writing Displacement

Jaya Padmanabhan entered boarding school when she was four, and has been a sales rep, a software engineer and now a fiction writer, journalist and editor. This week the Examiner columnist and author of the short-story collection Transactions of Belonging joins Larry and guest co-host Laurie Ann Doyle to trace her path, talk about how readers respond to “ambiguous” endings, a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging, her novel-in-progress … and toddy tappers.

“Writing is a reflex action that comes out of reading, at least for me.”

7:12: Writing across a “broad spectrum”
13:12: “The epiphany,” and learning to write short stories
20:55: Her favorite stories, and how readers responded to “His Curls”
29:48: The roots of a lifelong interest in displacement and belonging
41:30: Entering the world of journalism
49:48: New projects, toddy tappers

Episode 88: BQ and Larry On Motivation’s Fickle Fortunes

Larry and BQ dig deep this week in an episode that checks in on both of their writing projects, probes the fickle fortunes of motivation, explores the ups and downs of networking with other writers and much more. 

“The process from book deal to book is the opposite of Dante’s Divine Comedy. You start out in parades, and you end up in Hell.”

1:40: Larry has an idea for a new podcast.
6:48: Are you comfortable telling someone, “this is the best book (movie, TV show, etc.) ever?”
11:54: What’s happening with BQ’s new book.
20:00: Larry’s latest attempt at a new book.READ MORE

Episode 87: Yang Huang On Writing On Your Own Terms

Yang Huang, author of the Juniper Prize-winning book of short stories, My Old Faithful, joins the GrottoPod this week to discuss a fascinating journey that includes her immigration to the United States as a teen, a career in engineering, an MA and an MFA, raising a family and, along the way, learning English and starting to write fiction. She also delivers, according to guest co-host Lee Kravetz (sitting in for Larry this week), “at least 15 sayings that should be tattoos.” Huang is also the author of a novel, Living Treasures.

“I always thought I would write, on my own terms.→ READ MORE

Episode 86: Kristin Kaye On Writing Mystical Experiences

Kristin Kaye didn’t set out to write a YA book, much less an award-winning YA book, but that’s exactly what happened. This week, the writer of Tree Dreams, one of Buzzfeed’s “5 Books to Read to Prep for Earth Day,” joins the GrottoPod to trace her unlikely path from avant-garde theater impresario to environmental activist and author, stopping off along the way to touch on eco-warriors, breaking our addiction to consumption, jobs that offer health benefits and the multi-dimensional world of women’s body-building. 

“The big question was: how do I write an internal conversation with a tree that sounds like a two-way conversation?

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Episode 84: Lillian Li On Finding Your Process

Number One Chinese Restaurant author Lillian Li joins Larry and Lee (subbing again for BQ) in the GrottoPod this week to discuss the many roads that led to her debut novel. She shares her brief-but-intense experience as a waitress, what it’s like writing a beach novel at Panera, and how family, life experience and tradition shaped her writing voice.

“In some ways (my book) is and isn’t inspired by working in a restaurant. I was just trying to get through the day without crying in the walk-in refrigerator at least once.”

10:02: How a panoply of inspirations led to Number One Chinese Restaurant
20:11: Getting into the mind of a male protagonist
24:05: Questions of plot; finding your writing process
33:55: How Li came to see writing as a career instead of a hobby
47:26: Number One Chinese Restaurant’s journey from manuscript to book

Episode 83: Crystal Hana Kim On Making Your First Novel Epic

For her first novel, author Crystal Hana Kim tackled an epic, multi-narrator love triangle set against the backdrop of the Korean War. She joins Larry and guest host Lee Kravetz in the GrottoPod this week to discuss the challenges of writing If You Leave Me, her love for her characters and how she balances teaching and writing.

“I wanted to write about a woman, because war narratives are so often about men in battle. I wanted to write about what happens when a woman is traumatized by war.”

12:20: Why she chose to pursue both an MFA and an advanced teaching degree, and how training for both is cross-beneficial.→ READ MORE

Episode 82: “Writer’s Writer” Fenton Johnson

“Writer’s writer” Fenton Johnson joins the GrottoPod this week for a far-ranging conversation that touches on some of the recurring themes in his work: place, solitude, faith and belonging. Johnson has written six books, including three novels and the memoir Geography of the Heart.

“I believe in writing as rhetoric. The challenge is to do the triple backwards somersault flip where whatever you’re writing is teaching you to convey that to the reader in a way where the reader is engaged and is participating in the process.”

8:36: How searching for “place” and finding one’s way became a theme in Johnson’s work.→ READ MORE